A GRANT of almost £1m is to help create a new military attraction honouring the brave men who sailed in the ‘Spitfires of the Sea’.
Trustees of the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust are celebrating the award of £935,000 by chancellor Philip Hammond.
The windfall, made up of monies secured as part of the Libor banking scandal, will pave the way to create a new exhibition in Gosport honouring the courageous sailors of the Coastal Forces.
The unit played a critical role in the naval success of both the First and Second World War, often tackling ‘suicide missions’ in small but fast patrol boats against larger warships.
Sir Paul Haddacks, chairman of the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust, said the new exhibition will be based at Priddy’s Hard and celebrate the centenary of the navy fleet.
He said: ‘The brave young men who manned these fast-attack craft made an extraordinary contribution to naval warfare.
‘They operated in the darkest of nights in flimsy heavily-armed craft, attacking the enemy at very close range.
‘Their history from the sinking of a major Bolshevic Cruiser in 1919 by a three manned 40ft coastal motor boat is a tremendous story which is now rightly celebrated.’
Coastal Forces was born from the idea of coastal motor boats – small but fast attack motor boats which carried torpedoes. It was a branch of the Royal Navy which gained a greater number of distinguished service awards than any other.
During the Second World War alone the unit was involved in 900 actions resulting in 400 enemy vessels sunk.
The team fired more torpedoes than the submarine service, with a greater proportion of hits as well as landing spies on enemy-held beaches.
By the end of the war, it consisted of more than 2,000 vessels and 30,000 personnel – winning 3,000 decorations including four Victoria Crosses.
Sir Paul added: ‘We plan to deliver an exhibition worthy of the 30,000 men and women who served in Coastal Forces and who were the most decorated branch of the Naval Service in the Second World War.’
For more details, see www.coastal-forces.org.uk